The Dutch Carillon is back in action

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For musicians Edward Nassor and Frank Steijns, getting ready to play your chosen instrument is a bit more complicated than pulling a violin out of a case or sitting down in front of a piano. It also involves more cardio. They are chimes and the first part of any performance is to climb a high steeple.

Both played last Thursday in the rededication of the Dutch Carillon in Arlington. When I caught up with them, I was still a little out of breath from climbing the stairs to the top of the 127ft tower.

“During the pandemic, we were the only musicians who could play,” said Frank, who traveled from Maastricht in the Netherlands to entertain an American audience. “We have so much distance from the public. Especially in Holland, the carillon was suddenly an instrument for everyone. It was the only instrument people could go to concerts with because it was outdoors.

The Dutch Carillon stands between the Marine Corps Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. It was dedicated in 1960, a gift from the people of the Netherlands in thanks for the assistance of the United States during World War II. It has remained silent for the past few years while undergoing a complete renovation. The tower’s 1,748 steel panels have been removed. Nearly 800 had to be replaced, the rest were refurbished and reinstalled.

Three new bells were cast at the Dutch bell foundry Royal Eijsbouts, where the 50 old bells were developed.

“This instrument was my first love, my first carillon job,” said Edward, 64. “Now it’s a brand new instrument. We’ll find the right repertoire for it and I can’t wait.

How do you become a carillonneur? For Edward, the story began at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Music. He decides to study all the keyboard instruments: piano, organ, harpsichord, synthesizer… carillon. Carillon? Edward wasn’t sure what the latter was.

“My adviser said it was some kind of keyboard instrument,” said Edward, who lives in Fairfax County and also teaches music at Merritt Academy. “As soon as I heard the sound, I realized it was unique and different. And how many keyboards do you play with your fists? »

Chime isn’t just a leg workout. The cajoling sound of this one sounds like playing whack-a-mole. Large wooden keys protrude from the chime keypad. They are attached to wires and pulleys which set in motion the hammers which strike the bronze bells. Pressing these keys requires a fair amount of punch. Edward and Frank’s palms are covered in calluses.

“It’s not safe, as you can see,” Frank said, showing me a small cut on a little finger. “My father was a carillonneur. He used to wear small leather things on his little fingers to keep him from hurting himself. I like to do the real thing.

Frank was 10 years old when his father took him to the carillon tower of Maastricht’s town hall.

“I was looking at all these people and I was like, ‘I could do this,'” Frank said. “The only thing I changed was the directory.”

Father and son played atop a building dating back to 1664. Frank’s late father, Matthewhas favored music that adapts to the old tower: the baroque.

“But nobody looked up,” Frank said. “I said to myself, ‘When I’m a carillonneur, I’ll change my repertoire so that people will raise their heads.'”

A chime is made of tons of bronze and steel, Frank reasoned.

“If it’s not heavy metal, what is it?” he said. “I play everything, including Metallica.”

Metallica was not on the program during the rededication, but who knows what might ring bells in the future.

And now, let’s move on to another DC-area landmark that has undergone a renovation: The Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kensington. This is the shiny white “Surrender Dorothy” building visible from the ring road.

Until June 11, the temple is open to non-Mormon visitors, the first time since 1974. Forty-eight years ago, Louise Plume and some of his friends arranged a visit to the newly opened temple. writes her husband, Robert“Louise requested an early visit date as she was expecting to deliver our first child in early October. The date set was September 17.

Louise has finished visiting the temple. The next morning she gave birth to a daughter.

“The doctor who delivered our daughter Sarah at Georgetown Hospital attributed the early delivery to the temple visit which involved climbing many stairs,” Robert wrote.

Louise and Robert live in Potomac, while Sarah Plumb DiGioia lives in Burke with her husband Lou and son Jack. On May 6, the mother-daughter couple returned to the temple for a visit. This time Sarah had to walk alone.

I take time. Look for me back in this space on May 23.

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